At the beginning of its eighth season, the Rotax Max Euro Challenge starts the 2011 championship with the highest number of entries for any one round so far in the history of the event. 210 drivers representing in excess of 30 countries have staked their claim for a shot at the coveted European Max title as the series opener gets underway this weekend at the prominent Karting Genk circuit in Belgium.
On the closing day of entries for the first round, three classes had already been filled and there was a waiting list for the Rotax DD2 together with the Junior and Senior Max categories, leaving only the Max Masters (24+ years) with any available places. Event organisers and promoters RGMMC Establishment has been the driving force behind the championship now since BRP-Powertrain as the Rotax engine manufacturer requested they oversee the championship after it began in Italy in back in 2004. Today, RGMMC continue to follow the concept that has helped create one of the more competitive series in the world at international level, where drivers and teams compete with a professional approach to racing in an organised and fair competitive atmosphere.
Roland Geidel of RGMMC says he’s excited about the prospect of having an increasing interest in the Euro Challenge from new teams and individual drivers who are looking to move into international competition at this level. “We are really looking forward to this season and some great racing at the Euro, welcoming the newcomers to the championship as well as those who have supported the RGMMC events over the past years. It’s important to mention that we’ll be taking the Euro Challenge to several new venues in 2011 – including Denmark and Angerville in France, as we aim to bring the racing closer to more of the series drivers in various parts of Europe while offering alternative tracks that are very good.” He added “The majority of the European Rotax titles have been decided in the final round here at Genk six times already, but this time we’ve mixed it up a little to make things interesting and brought the opening round to Belgium.”
Regarded as one of the prominent circuits in Europe at present, the 1,360 metre Karting Genk circuit offers a technical layout that combines some of the significant features of a selection of the best tracks in Europe and was redesigned prior to hosting the Euro Challenge initially in 2005. With its long, fast straights and additionally hard-braking corners, Genk makes it difficult for many unfamiliar drivers in searching for the ideal set-up and race line in the limited practice time. Normally the last round of the championship, the Belgians will kick-off the series this time around in the year they will also have the honour of being the chosen location for the CIK-FIA World KZ and Super KF Championships.
90 drivers will line-up in the Rotax Senior Max class with each competing in four qualifying heats Saturday to decide which 34 will go though for Sunday’s finals. It’s setting the stage for some cut-throat racing where every place counts for vital points. Winner of the 2010 round at Genk was 17-year old Sean Babington, who at the time last September was making his international debut at the Euro Challenge as well as his first race in Senior Max. Coming off his 3rd place in juniors at the ABKC national championship in Great Britain and then finishing as the Rotax Winter Cup vice champion last month in Spain, the Dan Holland driver claims he’s feeling quite confident this week.
“I’m happy to be starting the series here in Genk after winning the closing round in 2010 and believe we can do very well. There’s at least 20 other drivers in the class though that are all very capable of winning this event, so it’s going to be a close competition this weekend. After collecting two free rounds as part of the Winter Cup prize, we decided to come back to the Euro Challenge and have some good support for the season, so hopefully I can have the results to place well in the points.”
In Junior Max, there will be 70 competitors on the starting grid including the Rotax Max Grand Finals champion Jordi van Moorsel and his predecessor Ukyo Sasahara, as well as the 2011 Rotax Winter Cup winner Finn Kooijmann and a string of national junior favourites who are national title holders. Many of the younger drivers are also making their debut at the Euro Challenge and making the next step up from Mini Max at the race in Genk so there’s the unknown factor of the new drivers coming into the series, together with the locals who have the obvious advantage of knowing the track.
The Max Masters current world number one champion Christophe Adams of Belgium comes into the Genk round as one of the guys to beat, but he admits it won’t be an easy task based on the calibre of drivers he’s up against. “In practice today I’ve managed to be fast in the wet, but there are some good drivers here with a lot of past experience like Mikko Laine, former karter Dominic Duparcq also from Belgium and Alexandre Compere, who was good in the French championship. I think it’s going to be very close.” Adams will also compete in the Rotax 2-speed class vying to win the DD2 Masters.
One of the possible victors at the opening meeting is last season’s DD2 winner at the Genk race Simas Juodvirsis, who was part of some of the most nail-biting battles in the class last September to eventually seal the round honours. Following his outstanding entry into the championship at the Wackersdorf round, the RKV Racing member driving out of the Belgian DFK awning is seriously hoping to secure the title in 2011. However, he also acknowledges that it may not be as easy as he would like, “The level of the competition is very high this year and I really think the racing will be closer than before. It could be very difficult to win because there are many very fast and experienced drivers. I like the circuit here at Genk, it’s good and whether it’s wet or dry I don’t mind. The team is good as well, so we will keep working hard to be the quickest and hopefully we can win this weekend.”
With the first round officially underway Friday, April 1st when untimed practice hits the circuit at 10.00am, entries are already rolling in for the second round in Germany, including lots of new drivers preparing for the Wackersdorf event from May 25th to 29th. The Rotax DD2 category looks set to be another class to be extended to a double grid field if the demand for places continues to grow as it is. Competitors must participate in at least three rounds of the four-round series to be eligible for the 2011 European championship title where 11 invitations to this year’s Rotax Max Grand Finals in November will also be awarded to the podium winners as part of the prize pool.
Follow the action online…
Keep up with all the track action online at www.rgmmc.com by following the link to RGMMC Live Timing where results can be found from all the sessions starting from tomorrow’s free practice which is also accompanied by live commentary from RGMMC Series speaker Ken Walker.
Watch RGMMC TV via the link as well on the official Rotax Euro Challenge homepage at www.rgmmc.com for video updates, interviews and lots more throughout the weekend by selecting the “Video Archive” option.
Round 1 race program…
Following Friday’s official timed practice after lunch, Saturday’s program is a full race schedule of 22 qualifying heats. Sunday begins with a carb session in the morning at 8.40am prior to the second chance heats and consolation races (junior and senior) ahead of the pre-final and final for each of the four classes.